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THE NEW VEHICLE LICENSING REGIME

By NBF News
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It was Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka who wrote that 'The Man Died' in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny. The above mentioned title of the Prof's book best encapsulates the official tyrannical policies that the Nigerian people are being subjected to daily in the present dispensation by those in authority that one assumes ought to know better the implications.

This reaction is coming at a time when it has become obvious that the Nigerian state is on a roller coaster with unparalleled absurd, unconstitutional, anti-democratic, anti-people, visionless and obnoxious policies. by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. The list is legion. From six years single tenure, interference in Salami/Katsina Alu judicial face-off, increase in electricity tariff, removal of fuel subsidy, return of toll gates on federal roads, award of national honours to unscrupulous elements, to setting up another jamboree constitution review committee, etc. Only recently, precisely on September 2, 2011, the Corps Marshall of the FRSC, Mr. Osita Chidoka, announced introduction of new vehicle number plates and vehicle licences that are expected to phase out the extant vehicle number plates and licences. Nigerians are expected to replace the current plates and licences with new ones within one year of the introduction.

This unconstitutional and illegal proposal is coming at a time when agitation is reaching fever pitch on the efficiency and relevance of the FRSC in modern times to perform its constitutional role in view of the deplorable state of our roads nationwide which have continued to claim lives and properties at a national embarrassment scale. One was, therefore, disappointed and shocked that the Corps Marshall of the FRSC could abdicate his constitutional function of making federal highways safe for motorists and delving into an area in which his commission had no constitutional powers.

The lack of focus of the FRSC is best captured by the fact that it published just recently a report which was even corroborated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in which Nigeria was ranked 191 out of 192 countries in the world as having the second highest rate of road accidents that is consuming human lives at a rate of 162 per 100,000 persons, not to mention unquantified value of lost property. It was even clearly stated in that report that very soon, the number of persons killed via road accidents in Nigeria will surpass deaths from malaria and tuberculosis. In November 21, 2011 edition of the Punch Newspaper, Mr. Chidoka was quoted as lamenting that 3,365 Nigerians lost their lives between January and November 2011 in road crashes across the country. One had therefore, in view of the abysmal performance of the FRSC in making our roads safe for citizens, expected it to be more focused in pursuing vigorously measures that will save lives on our roads, but alas, the FRSC as an agency of the state is more interested in unconstitutionally generating revenue at the expense of its primary constitutional function.

Mr. Osita Chidoka must be told that Nigeria is a federation in which the powers of government are shared between the three tiers of government, namely the federal, state and local governments. In order to prevent friction between these levels of government, their powers are distinctly divided constitutionally between the Exclusive list where the federal government has sole constitutional powers such as in areas like security, foreign affairs, etc. There is the Concurrent list in which constitutional powers are shared between the federal and states government in areas such as health, roads, women affairs, to mention but a few. Then, there is the Residual list in which the state governments have absolute powers and this is where road traffic management, which Mr. Chidoka is attempting to infringe upon, is constitutionally given to the states.

Also the claim of the helmsman of the FRSC that the necessity for the new license regime is predicated on the fact that the country is losing about 15 billion naira annually to fake licence vendors and so the poor and struggling Nigerian motorists should bear the burden of the inefficiency of the security agencies in apprehending the criminals is irresponsible and unacceptable. If FRSC needs any security information on motorists, they should synchronize and get it from sister government agencies like National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) or the Central Motor Registry (CMR) of the Police.

One thing I am very sure of is that we the Nigerian people have decided to call the bluff of the FRSC as regards this illegal and unconstitutional policy which is only geared towards neglecting its constitutional responsibility of making our federal highways safe for all. We have resolved to send a clear message to the FRSC that enough is enough in terms of its unconstitutionality in delving into an area not assigned to it by law.

Ekujumi writes from Lagos.